Climbing Koyo Zom





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Thursday 15th August

Set off for Koyo Zom with 4 days food & gear. Left about 10.30. Easy going over well frozen snow. Snow slope above not as bad as R & B had said - didn’t sink in at all. At half height went off right using crampons to top of rognon. Had lunch on upper glacier plateau - even ate my fish today. 18,700 [5 700 m] . H took ad. shots of me eating fruit & fish. Koyo Zom quite impressive. Austrian ridge looks hard. Had long levelish unpleasant trog to foot of ridge, kept breaking through wind crust. Bivied at 19,000 feet [5 800 m ]. Looked at S. Ridge, looks easy except top 1/3 steep granite. Might go but decided to stick to Austrian route. It doesn’t look too far from here but in fact it is 3,500 feet [1 070 m ] still to go. Hoping for good weather.

Friday 16th August

Had bad night. No sleepers. Harry reckons he slept one hour, I think I slept a little more. The morning was also moderately miserable with wind and spindrift. So a cold night and morning but perfect blue sky. Not a cloud to be seen. Both felt psychologically bad though. Decided we couldn’t face a bivi on the mountain and so decided to try to do it in a day. Warmed up frozen tin of beans & sausage, pint of coffee between us and we set off with day sacks. Left at 8 o’clock. Feeling rough at first, then improved. Reached ridge (1000’) by 10.00. Then a good bivi site by 11.30. Found some old Austrian pitons and roped up for a few pitches over mixed ground and poor snow on ice - not hard though. H said we had 2000’ [600 m ] to go by altimeter. I thought we had it in the bag and were half way. Dumped most of gear, duvets etc. Took one ice screw, pegs and rope, axes etc. Continued towards snow field to by pass rocky section, but soon got bogged down in deep snow - not steep, unroped. Decided to head back towards rocks where the going was better. Nearly to ridge line. All went well to just below rocks the snow cover diminished and soon I was on water ice. Threw rope down to H who dug himself a step - only to find water ice a foot below the surface, then belayed on our only ice screw. I carried on to the end of the rope, but couldn’t reach the rock. This left us in a quandary, H could have come up and I belay him from a step but then it occurred to us that retreat with one ice screw and a single rope meant 75’ of abseil. Added to this time was getting on. Decided to go back left to snow. Descended on front points - ice too hard for axe to grip but not very steep - 40-45° - still it would have been a long fall, till back on snow cover. Traversed one pitch left and brought H across, again belayed on ice step. Had little chat. Time now 1.45 and estimated at least 1000’ [300m ] to go. Shortage of gear and tiredness. Decided it was foolish to continue, and headed down - about 6 rope lengths to good lunch spot and bivi site. Saw two figures in the distance. Had lunch. Took photos and headed down. Both glad to be descending. Roped to top of snow slope then ran off down to let the others know what had happened. They were moving slowly and we were scared they might think we had succeeded and not bother coming up to the foot of the ridge. Ran off to them and they agreed to give it a bash the next day, biviing at the site we'd found. They were very tired when they got to our camp. Felt really miserable getting to bed. Had quick pog and took two sleepers and two shit pills (I had shat myself again while drinking coffee H had made while I was coming up to the camp with Rob & Bruce). Couldn’t be bothered with a brew. Slept like a log, didn’t wake up till about 8.

Saturday 17th August

Felt much better. Rob & Bruce  got off about 10.30 aiming for bivi at about 1/2 height - 20,500’ [6 250 m ]. Then to summit next day. We wished them good luck - declined the offer of a foursome. Just sat around all day, melting water and resting. Watching R & B ascending. For some reason B seemed to prefer to ascend our descent tracks rather than zigzag. They got to the ridge about 3. Then stopped there a long time. Began to think they might turn back. But no, they carried on & got to the bivi about 5. Miraculously the weather cleared and it is now the clearest I’ve seen it. Very cold though. Had to get up for a sh*t, despite trying to control it. Got really cold in the wind and was in a miserable state when I got back in the tent. Woke Harry up putting my hands down his pit to warm them up. Thought I would have to go for another but held it down with an effort.

Sunday 18th August

Up fairly early. Saw R & B had started climbing by about 7.30, a good sign. Set off about 9.00 to do unclimbed ridge opposite. Fairly level to S end of S peak. Then easy snow to crest - only 1000’ or so above camp level. From ridge there was a marvelous view of the upper basin of the Chatiboi glacier. Would make a marvelous place for a light expedition. We really regretted not having gone there. The basin was surrounded by 19,000’ [5 800 m ] separate peaks with a couple of big ones. All separate and only one big and one small climbed. The basin was about 2000’ [600m ] lower than us - looked much more hospitable than the Pecchus plateau. The col to it on our right was very steep though.

Set off along ridge. Soon scrambled up S summit gendarme. Watching R & B make steady progress up Koyo Zom. They went left of the ice, just skirting the rocks which we had nearly reached. We continued along the ridge. It was a superb snowy ridge with red granite gendarmes to be turned or climbed. Roped up after S summit. Impressive rock cliff leading 2000’ or more to Chatiboi glacier on right and ~1000’ snow slope on left. Excellent climbing. N summit was a corniced snow peak, the ridge here being snow ice - good ice axe belays. Wearing crampons all day and got to N summit by 2.00. S summit 6,020 m [19 750 feet], N summit 6,050 m [19 850 feet]. Cold on top due to wind, so decided to set off down for lunch. We’d been dawdling all day taking photos of each other, Pecchus Zom, Koyo Zom and watching R & B. They had climbed above the rocks and were on the snow arete preceding the summit rocks. We lost sight of them about now. Often during the day we thought we could see them but were only looking at rocks. H thought he could see steps on final snow but we weren’t sure.

For a descent we had decided to just climb down the snowy W face of the N summit, but as soon as we were on it we found it was ice most of the way down. About 45°, but we had leant R & B two of our bang in ice pegs, expecting them to leave a couple of theirs, but they apparently took all six, so once more we only had one tubular ice screw. So we had a 2 hour performance of one climbing down on front points to the end of the rope, cutting a belay stance, then the other would take out the screw, clip it on the rope and slide it down so the first could belay his descent. All very trying in the hot sun - don’t know if one screw would hold a 300’ fall anyway? Finally got to bergshrund and crossed it fairly easily on a snow bridge. H dropped a crab due to mitted hands. Got back to glacier just as sun left us. Could now see R & B descending top snow slope - they must have been cold - but had they got to the top? We couldn’t tell. Got back to bivi about 7.00. Very cold and tired. Had to re-erect tent - some irritating puddles of water, but luckily the pits were dry.

Could only be bothered with coffee and a few Garibaldi. Forgot to look for R & B’s flare till 7.31, so didn’t see it, sent off green flare anyway then went to sleep - took a mogadon - not a bad night.

Monday 19th August

Next morning laid in and had a good breakfast, waiting for R & B. Soon saw them making very erratic progress down mountain. Bruce got to us while Rob was still making very slow progress down lower snow slope. They had climbed Koyo Zom, but had had a bad fall near the top on the summit rocks. Bruce had been coming second and slipped after only about 10’. Rob’s belay had pulled off and he had fallen about 100’. Then luckily the rope (single 9 mm) had held over some rocks and saved them. Both badly shaken but miraculously only cuts and bruises and strained muscles. Rob was worse as his back hurt a lot. Bruce badly bruised. Rob had lost a crampon after the fall and so now only had one. H had brew ready for both of them as they told their tale. It didn’t really sink in until later how serious it might have been.

Cleared up camp and set off down with all worthwhile food. Set off at 12. Rob going badly. Found he had taken about 10 lbs of tinned food, so I took them off him after a bit as the rest of us only had a little. Went back their way, down the deep snow slope, which wasn’t too bad in descent but would have been unpleasant going up. Got to Moac camp with Bruce at about 3.00, to meet Nev & Colin. Told them all the story and H & Rob arrived 1/4 hr. later. Sat around resting and pogging - had hardly eaten or drunk (especially) the last few days. Nev still had the sh*ts. They had got to the red bivi sight the night we had expected them at the Moac, apparently they’d had heavy sacks! Colin wanted to do the 19,000’ rock peak behind the camp. He’d set off with Neville, but violent sh*ts and weakness had sent them back to camp where they had been waiting since. Quite glad they were there to help carry down the loads - there was now a complete Vango there + 1 gallon of petrol and a lot of food. Half felt like doing the climb with Colin, as no one else would. But decided to think a bit before deciding in case I was tired.

H & I hacked out a sight for the bivi tent next to the Moac. A lot of new crevasses had opened up round the sight - which always was noisy at night with cracks and groans from the glacier. R & B went straight to bed. The rest of us chatted and played a few hands of bridge in the Moac before being driven to bed by the increasing ferocity of the farts. During the night it fully sank in how bad things might have been. One bad strain high on Koyo Zom would have been enough to give a serious rescue problem - and only us two up there. I felt very bad and very depressed about the whole thing. A bit of the usual nervous depression set in, and I took some salvation in paracetamol. Decided I didn’t feel a bit like the rock climb - it would have been more than a one day affair and technically difficult - not worth the effort.


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